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Corrupted Contingency

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"Nice idea to build a fortress strong enough to withstand a superhuman assault — except when you're trapped inside and it's coming down around your ears."
Jack Hawksmoor telling the Children of Gamorra how they're screwed in The Authority Volume 2, Issue #1

Being prepared for the worst is vital to dealing with the most dangerous of enemies or scenarios. This contingency may take the form of a strategy, secret weapon, enemy weakness, or security systems and measures.


A Corrupted Contingency is what happens when a contingency plan or security measure either backfires on the user due to unforeseen issues or is co-opted by someone else to be used against the plan's creator, their allies, or even just people the creator had no intention of harming. This can also have the side effect of revealing a contingency the creator wanted to keep hidden from their allies since the contingencies were supposed to be a form of Betrayal Insurance. This trope can also be used as a way to show a character is Improperly Paranoid by having their contingencies be more dangerous than what they are afraid of.

In some cases, a Corrupted Contingency can come about due to misuse or carelessness by the owner, such as forgetting the password or not programming a security system properly.


If the Corrupted Contingency takes the form of a living person, they may be Phlebotinum Rebel.

See also Hoist by His Own Petard and Failsafe Failure. May overlap with A.I. Is a Crapshoot if it involves advanced technology.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Authority:
    • The G7 cabal who gave Seth his powers also made sure to install a Trigger Phrasenote  that would shut down his powers in the event they needed to remove Seth from play. The Authority learn of this phrase and Jenny Quantum speaks it to De-power him, removing the cabal's most dangerous weapon.
    • The Children of Gamorra have a fortress built to withstand a superhuman assault. The Authority lock them inside it and then destroy it with the Children of Gamorra still inside it.
  • The Boys: Black Noir is a clone of Homelander, created for the purpose of stopping the latter if he were to go rogue. Unfortunately, Black Noir grew bored with waiting for a reason to take Homelander out and decided to engineer the scenario he was designed to prevent by committing a spree of horrible crimes and gaslighting Homelander into thinking he was the one who committed them. This resulted in Homelander further embracing his already cruel and depraved nature, escalating to him leading an attempted coup.
  • The DCU:
    • Batman: This is a recurring issue with Bruce.
      • Justice League of America: Tower of Babel: Batman created contingency plans to be used against the Justice League in the event they either turned evil or were mind-controlled. Ra's al Ghul discovers these plans and modifies them to be more lethal so he can use them to kill the League.
      • Batman: War Games: After Bruce fires her from being Robin, Stephanie Brown tries to prove herself to him by stealing and executing one of his plans to take down Gotham's underworld. Unfortunately, this plan relies on the presence of Matches Malone, who unbeknownst to Stephanie is an alias of Bruce Wayne. The plan quickly spins out of control and results in a citywide gang war.
      • Infinite Crisis: After discovering that members of the Justice League had altered his and several others people's memories, Batman created a new version of Brother Eye to spy on and gather data on all metahumans to make sure they are not a threat and neutralize the ones that are. Maxwell Lord secretly corrupts Brother Eye for his own purposes and when Wonder Woman kills Max to stop him from controlling Superman, Brother Eye begins attacking metahumans all across the world using its OMAC cyborgs.
      • Batman (Chip Zdarsky): As it turns out, Batman has created a contingency against himself in case he ever went rogue: Failsafe, a nearly unstoppable android based on Amazo tech. And because it's Batman we are talking about, it wasn't technically him, but rather the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh, himself a backup personality contingency created for when Batman suffers a psychic attack. And Zurr-En-Arrh also erased his own memory of how to stop Failsafe for good measure. Unfortunately, Failsafe was erroneously activated by the Penguin deciding to frame Batman for murder...
        Robin: [Facepalming] ...and of course Bruce created a contingency backup who created a contingency plan...
    • Hellblazer: Lord Burnham's plan to escape punishment for his crimes is to commit suicide and transfer his soul into a soul cage outfitted with all manner of sex slaves and intended to last for eternity. Burnham hires the blood mage Mako to construct the cage in exchange for a hell mirror, a powerful artifact that will greatly amplify Mako's powers. Constantine impersonates Burnham to catch Mako off-guard and frees the souls of the slaves. Constantine then impersonates Mako and waits for Burnham to perform the lethal injection on himself before smashing the mirror and informing Burnham that the villain now has an eternity to spend with a very angry Mako.
    • Supergirl (2011): The submarine base called "Sanctuary" is programmed to eradicate any clones of Supergirl. Unfortunately, Sanctuary's A.I. doesn't discriminate between clones and doppelgangers from other universes, or even cares if these clones/doppelgangers mean Kara no harm. When Kara's Earth-2 counterpart Power Girl takes Kara to the fortress for medical attention in issue #19, the Sanctuary's A.I assumes Power Girl is a clone and tries to kill her, prompting the two Kryptonians to fight it together.
  • Vengeance of Vampirella (2019): It's revealed that the spell used to resurrect Vampirella was originally meant for Sebastian. Sebastian tries to salvage this by draining her energy to restore himself to life. This plan is foiled by Vampirella's allies and Sebastian's goal of ushering in a new age for the world under his command dies with him.
  • Watchmen: This is what resulted in Jon Osterman becoming Dr. Manhattan. When he entered a test chamber to retrieve his lab coat which contained a watch, the doors automatically locked behind him while the automatic timer started up the generators for that afternoon's experiment. As a safety feature, the researchers were unable to open the door or override the countdown and could only watch helplessly as Jon was torn apart by the generators' blast.
  • X-Men: The Xavier Protocols are a set of plans designed by Xavier to take out the world's most powerful mutants (including himself) in the event they become a threat to the world. X-Men Volume 2, #84 has Cerebro gaining sentience and carrying out its purpose of scanning for and cataloguing mutants in a harmful manner. When the X-Men try to stop it, Cerebro intends to use the Xavier Protocols against them.

    Fan Works 
  • With This Ring: The repeated attacks on Mount Justice motivate Paul to set up extensive automated defenses. Unfortunately, all that advanced equipment just makes the mountain a more appealing target for technology theft; Nylor Truggs completely trashes and ransacks the place, twice, while the team isn't home.

    Films — Animation 
  • Justice League: Doom: Vandal Savage learns that Batman had created contingency plans to neutralize each member of the Justice League in case they became evil. Under orders from Savage, the Legion of Doom takes control of these plans, modifies them to be lethal, and uses them to attack the League.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: The Ultron Program was designed to protect the world from both terrestrial and extraterrestrial threats, "a suit of armor around the world" as Tony put it. Unfortunately, Tony made the mistake of integrating the code of Loki's Scepter into the program, causing it to become sentient and murderous.
  • The Island: Lincoln Six Echo is a clone of James McCord created for the purpose of providing backup organs should McCord's fail due to disease. Lincoln tricks the mercenaries hired to retrieve him into thinking McCord is the clone, resulting in them killing him.
  • Minority Report:
    • The Precrime police program prevents homicides and murders by using three precogs to predict the killings before they happen. John Anderton strongly believes in the program's validity until it is predicted that he will kill a man he is never even met before in the next 36 hours. It turns out that all of this is the plan of Precrime's founder Lamar Burgess who wanted to keep Anderton from looking into the death of Anne Lively which would result in Precrime being shut down. Burgess used his own knowledge of how Precrime works to commit the murder and set Anderton up.
    • In theory, the Precrime system should make it impossible for anyone to even consider a murder without being detected by the Precogs, making it the ultimate contingency in law enforcement. The film's ultimate twist is that Lamar Burgess exploited a loophole in the system to get away with murdering Anne Lively, the mother of one of the Precogs who wanted her daughter back and could potentially bring the program down by revealing damning information about the program's origins. First, Burgess hired an assassin to kill her, resulting in the crime being instantly predicted and the killer being arrested. Then, as soon as Lively was thought to be safe, Lamar dressed up in the hitman's mask and clothes, and drowned her in the nearby lake exactly as the assassin would have. The Precogs predicted this as well, but because the incident looked virtually identical to the already-averted murder, the Precrime technician assumed that the Precogs were just having nightmares about past visions — a common occurrence called an "echo" — and disregarded the vision.
  • Ocean's Thirteen: The casino the team is targeting uses an advanced anti-cheating computer. It analyzes everything in the casino down to player vitals to see if they were expecting a win. As a security feature, it reboots itself if it detects a threat. This takes only a few minutes, and the team plans to use that window to rig every game in the casino to ruin the owner, William Banks. They trap Banks in the security room by having him activate the failsafe with a magnetron they tricked him into carrying. The computer secures the doors and phones in the room so no one can leave or call to tell the dealers to stop taking bets until the system finishes rebooting. The team also tricked Banks into creating an earthquake evacuation plan which they use to get the players to leave with their winnings instead of losing it all once the system is back up.
  • Revenge of the Sith: According to Expanded Universe material, Order 66 was programmed into the clone troopers by their Kaminoan creators under the belief that it was a safety measure to deal with individual Jedi going rogue. Unknown to all but Palpatine and his fellow Sith, the programming was ultimately meant to set the clones to massacre all the Jedi in one fell swoop — though Palpatine did meticulously set up the Jedi to look like traitors to cover up the nefarious motives behind it.

  • Beware of Chicken: When the automated systems inside the Dueling Peaks are awakened after thousands of years, they're so degraded that the security system registers the damage as an attack, and raises all its shields — trapping dozens of notables inside until they find a way to switch them off.
  • Gentleman Bastard: The Bondsmagi have a meditative technique to escape torture by retreating into their own minds. Falconer tries to use this technique in the first book and is reduced to a vegetative state. The third book reveals this to be the result of his own mother magically sabotaging him, having decided he's too dangerous a Super Supremacist to keep around.
  • Mother of Learning: Zorian defeats Quatach-Ichl in the final battle by triggering his soul protection safeguards, forcing his soul to retreat to his phylactery, abandoning his body and the battlefield. A downplayed example, as this did involve a genuinely dangerous attack.
  • The Year of Rogue Dragons: Tens of thousands of years ago, the ancient elf kingdoms won a war with the dragons for control of Toril by creating a mythal (a permanent magic area effect) that would periodically drive all dragons Ax-Crazy so they would wipe each other out. During the story proper, the lich Sammaster has tampered with the mythal to make the madness permanent, while making sure only his dracoliches are immune, as a way of forcing the outcome of a prophecy that (he thinks) speaks of undead dragons ruling the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Batman: One episode has Batman and Robin investigating the appearance of a crude statue of the Joker in a museum. Sensing a trap, Batman urges the curator to close the museum and remove everyone from the premises; once they're all outside, a security guard brags about how their new defense system makes it impossible for anyone to get in or out of the building once it is activated. Batman realizes—too late—that he's played into the Joker's hands: the Clown Prince of Crime and his cronies are already inside the museum, and now the heroes cannot get back in to stop them. Sure enough, Joker and his goons emerge from the sculpture gallery and head to the Rare Gems exhibit.
  • The Flash (2014): Cisco Ramon creates a Freeze Ray to be used against the Flash in the event the latter went rogue. The ray gets stolen by the villain Leonard Snart who uses it as his signature weapon from then on.
  • Hannah Montana: The b-plot of "My Best Friend's Boyfriend" has Rico installing new security measures in his concession stand after a pair of glasses are stolen. The measures don't prevent any further burglaries by the "robber" (which turns out to have simply been a raccoon) and only succeed in causing bodily harm to Jackson and inconveniencing Rico's customers due to the many levels of security needed to go through just to get their order.
  • MacGyver: "The Human Factor" deals with an AI tasked securing a top-secret research facility going haywire and attacking its creator.
  • Perfect Strangers: In "Safe At Home", Larry installs a new security system after he and Balki's apartment is burgled. At night, Larry accidentally sets off the system and is unable to deactivate it because he forgot the password (which he also refused to tell Balki for security purposes). When Larry tries to resolve the issue by ripping out the panel, the system threatens to release poison gas, prompting them to throw Larry's new stereo chair through the window to shut it off, which the system interprets as the "robbers" having fled.
  • Without a Trace: "The Damage Done" involves the disappearance of Julia Martik the girlfriend, Albanian mob boss Sadik Marku, and their son Pedros. Julia is found but Pedros remains missing. It is revealed that Julia hadn't actually been kidnapped; she was planning to leave Sadik and take their son in order to protect him from Sadik's influence. She bought a gun for protection, but Pedros found it while she was packing and accidentally shot himself while playing with it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: At the height of its power, the Star League built a series of nigh-impregnable orbital defenses around Terra in order to protect the capital world from any aggressors who might seek to conquer it. Unfortunately, when the usurper Stefan Amaris managed to take over the Star League in a manner that bypassed the orbital defensesnote , those same defenses exacted a terrible toll on the loyalist Star League Defense Force when it came to remove Amaris from power.

    Video Games 
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: A Magitek supercomputer within a Pocket Dimension detected interference with the crystal that anchors it in the physical world, decided that the most plausible explanation was a sabotage attempt, and killed all its operators with its security failsafes. The interference was from a playful dog.
  • Fallout 3: A visit to Vault 112 reveals that Dr Stanislaus Braun has been preserved in stasis for two hundred years while his mind rules over a virtual reality simulation where he can torture and murder the Vault residents as many times as he likes without any of them actually dying. At some point before the Great War, Braun realized that he might eventually get bored with his godlike lifestyle, and acquired a "Chinese Invasion" training program. The simulated equivalent of a cyanide pill, its purpose is to override the simulator safeties, resulting in everyone caught in the crossfire to die for real, allowing Braun to commit suicide and take his subjects with him. Unfortunately for Braun, it turned out that his simulator had extra safeties attached, making the program quite useless for its intended purpose. As such, when you end up getting trapped in the simulation, the good karma path features you finding and activating the old failsafe: the residents are finally put out of their misery, while Braun is left alone in the now-broken simulation, trapped forever in a hell of his own making.
  • The Firemen: The building's security robots go on a rampage when the fire starts.
  • Hitman 3: The targets in the first level are Carl Ingram and Marcus Stuyvesant who are holed up in a massive skyscraper in Dubai. In the event of a security alert, they are to be evacuated by helicopter; if the helicopter becomes useless due to the pilot being incapacitated or dead, the two men will instead parachute off the building to safety. Should the player decide to make the assassination as subtle and as seemingly accidental as possible, they can knock out the pilot and sabotage the parachutes well in advance, deliberately trigger a security alert, and then sit back and watch as Ingram and Stuyvesant unwittingly fling themselves to their deaths.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn:
    • HADES was designed as the part of GAIA'S subsystems that would purge the earth of all life if GAIA made an error and needed to restart the world because the one it was currently making wasn't fit for human survival. Unfortunately, when Far Zenith's Extinction Signal made all of GAIA'S subsystems sentient, HADES decided its purpose was to indiscriminately purge the world of all life, humans included.
    • A similar thing occurred with HEPHAESTUS as explained in The Frozen Wilds and Forbidden West; it was designed as the subfunction that would build and control the machines necessary for terraforming the world on a minute scale. However, when it became sentient, HEPHAESTUS decided to build bigger and stronger machines, resulting in Hunter-killers and Fireclaws.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Princess Zelda fears that Ganondorf will try to break into the Sacred Realm and entrusts the titular ocarina to Link to keep it from the villain. But when Link goes to the Temple of Time to pull the Master Sword from its pedestal, Ganondorf emerges from the shadows laughing—he correctly guessed Zelda's contingency plan and simply let Link do the hard work of opening the Door of Time for him, allowing him to walk into the Sacred Realm without lifting a finger.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Having become well acquainted with the perpetually recurring cycle of Ganondorf coming back to life and attacking the land of Hyrule, the ancient Sheikah built an army of Guardian drones and Divine Beasts to defend the princess and champions tasked with sealing Ganon back into limbo. Unfortunately, after they succeeded the first time, Ganon had 10,000 years to plan a counterattack, and upon returning again he seized control of the Guardians and Beasts and used them to kill the champions and ravage Hyrule into a wasteland.
  • Mass Effect 3: Citadel: While Cerebus had Shepard's body in custody, they created a clone of them to serve as a source of emergency transplant organs. The clone breaks out with the help of a disgruntled Cerberus operator and teams up with CAT6 mercenaries to Kill and Replace the real Shepard.
  • Mortal Kombat: Armageddon: The Mortal Kombat tournament was created by the Elder Gods as a way for realms to defend themselves from Outworld or other invading realms. The Elder Gods also foresaw that the tournament would lead to a rise in numerous warriors growing too powerful and potentially destroying the realms through their escalating battles. The Edenian protector god Argus and his wife Delia created a failsafe in the form of the fire elemental Blaze whose defeat by either of their sons would either kill all of the fighters or depower them. The opening sequence of Mortal Kombat 9 reveals that Shao Kahn killed Blaze and absorbed his power, becoming the apocalyptic threat the Elder Gods were trying to avoid.
    • Blaze can end up being this even in non-canon endings:
      • In Taven's Konquest and arcade endings, Blaze's defeat neither kills the warriors nor depowers them, but instead makes them all even more powerful. This is attributed to Blaze being corrupted by Onaga's holy men who had captured Blaze and bound him to guard the egg from which Onaga would be reborn. This is also why the power and numbers of the various warriors were allowed to grow unimpeded throughout the realms as Blaze was unable to monitor the situation due to his enslavement.
      • In various villainous endings, defeating Blaze and absorbing his power allows the villain to conquer and/or destroy the realms.
      • In Blaze's own ending he defeats all who challenge him and destroys the realms.
      • This is averted in most heroic endings where defeating Blaze is a good outcome for the realms.
  • Mother 3: Porky attempts to escape by sealing himself in the Absolutely Safe Capsule, which is impenetrable from the outside. However, it is also not designed to be re-opened from the inside, as that could expose its contents to conditions which were no longer absolutely safe, preserving him eternally without being able to leave.
  • Oddworld: Soulstorm: Abe finds a number of sick Mudokons the abandoned mines of Sorrow Valley. Although neither he nor the Mudokons know what the sickness is, the victims' random experimentation gives Abe the clues needed to craft an antidote. Later in the game Abe finds out that the sickness is caused by the beloved beverage Soulstorm Brew, which causes cardiovascular failure if not regularly consumed. While this feature is intended to prevent escaped Mudokons from finding other settlements and spreading the word of their enslavement, by specifically striking the Mudokons hiding in Sorrow Valley, it gives Abe the knowledge on how to cure the effects of the Brew once and for all.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All: Matt Engarde paid Shelly de Killer to assassinate Juan Corrida, secretly filming the murder as Betrayal Insurance. Unfortunately for the culprit, this action winds up bringing about the very outcome he was trying to avoid — de Killer takes trust between himself and his clients very seriously, and when he learns that Engarde has betrayed him, he terminates their relationship, confesses to everything, and declares Engarde to be his next target, meaning Engarde is now faced with either confessing to the assassination and potentially getting the death penalty or getting acquitted and getting assassinated by de Killer. Engarde chooses the former.
  • Stellaris: Ancient Caretakers (a type of fallen empire which is a computer system specifically conceived to protect against an unknown menace) can be corrupted by the Contingency's Ghost Signal to become Rampaging Machines, invading everything in sight.


    Western Animation 
  • Archer: In "Tragical History", George Spelvin tricks Cyril Figgis into uploading a computer virus onto the ISIS computer mainframe, with the intent of stealing the information of every agent working for ISIS. They try turning off the mainframe but it has a backup battery protected by a two-ton steel door whose lock is controlled by the virus-infected mainframe.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Game Over For Owlman" reveals that Batman has information on his fellow heroes' weaknesses to be used against them in the event they go bad. Owlman uses this information to neutralize and capture the heroes while he impersonates Batman.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: In "Home Insecurity", Yumi installs a new security system in her room to prevent Ami from using her computer. Unfortunately, Yumi set the computer to attack anyone who enters her room which the system interprets to include Yumi.
  • Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: In "Hulk-Busted", the Leader takes control of Tony Stark's Hulk-Buster suits which he created as countermeasures against the Hulks.
  • Justice League Unlimited:
    • The episode "Dark Heart" reveals that the League's new Watchtower has a laser cannon which they use while fighting off the attacking Grey Goo. Despite the League arguing that the cannon is necessary to prevent situations like the Thanagarian Invasion from happening again, its existence is one of many reasons CADMUS is mistrustful of the League. CADMUS's fears about the weapon are proven to be justified when Lex Luthor hacks the Watchtower and uses the cannon to fire on a city, an act for which the League is blamed.
    • Doomsday is revealed to be a creation of CADMUS, meant to serve as a weapon against Superman in the event he went rogue again. Unfortunately, Doomsday's hatred of Superman — which was programmed into him in order to make him a more effective weapon — made him uncontrollable, forcing CADMUS to send him off into space. This plan failed and Doomsday went on a rampage before being captured and imprisoned by CADMUS. When Dr. Milo releases Doomsday to get revenge on Waller for demoting him, Doomsday kills Milo and seeks out Superman for a rematch.
  • Rick and Morty: Multiple versions of Ricks and Mortys across the multiverse all have a plan to cheat death called "Operation Phoenix", which allows their consciousness to escape into a cloned body when in mortal peril. However, the main villain of season 5 rerouted all of the cloned bodies to be dumped into an enormous meat grinder upon revival.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Good Neighbors", Squidward installs a security system to keep SpongeBob and Patrick out of his house. Not only does it fail to keep the two out, but SpongeBob dropping a cake on the main computer causes it to transform the house into a rampaging robot that attacks Bikini Bottom. The episode ends with Squidward, SpongeBob and Patrick sentenced to court-ordered community service to pay for the damages.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go:
    • "Flytor": The monkey team creates a new automatic defense system for Shugazoom City. At first it works well enough, but a sonic blast from Skeleton King's Monster of the Week causes it to malfunction and perceive the Super Robot as a threat, meaning the monkeys have to fight both the system and the monster.
    • "Hidden Fortress": The monkeys try to hide Chiro in the eponymous hidden fortress to protect him from Mandarin. Chiro refuses to hide and locks the monkeys in the fortress while he goes off to face the villain on his own. The monkeys are forced to fight their way through various security measures they designed to fend off outsiders in order to make it out of the fortress.
  • Young Justice: The Team enters the Phantom Zone to rescue Superboy who has been trapped there for months but are ambushed and defeated by the criminal Kryptonians that reside there. Planning for this, Nightwing breaks out a piece of kryptonite to weaken them, but being in the Phantom zone means it doesn't affect them physically and it gets taken by Dru-Zod, the Kryptonian leader. Later Dru-Zod uses the same piece of kryptonite to incapacitate Superman once they get out of the Phantom Zone.

    Real Life 
  • Operation Valkyrie was a German World War II continuity of government plan designed to be used in the event of civil order breaking down within the country. The conspirators of the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler modified Operation Valkyrie with the intent of using it to take control of German cities, disarm the Schutzstaffel, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler was killed. The plot was activated in 1944 but failed.


Video Example(s):


Shepard's Clone is an Ass

It turns out Cerberus had in fact made a clone of Commander Shepard for 'spare parts.' Unlike the original Shepard, this clone is an asshole (even by Renegade standards). He thinks he's superior the commander, claims to not have any emotional baggage, and even cruelly mocks Shepard's companions. And now he wants to take the commander's place.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / EvilKnockoff

Media sources: